Two East Sunbury best and fairest winners have returned to the club as it aims for its best Essendon District Football League division 2 finish.
The Thunder, who were in finals contention until the dying rounds this season, have made a big focus of trying to get players back to the club.
Thunder president Keith Obsorne said getting back some of the boys that know the culture of the club is a massive boost.
Kamen Ogilvie, who spent a year in the Central Highlands Football League and was one of the premier midfielders in the division 2 competition before changing clubs, returns, as does Rhys Gardener.
“I would say he is one of the best players in division 2 and it’s a coup to get him back,” Obsorne said.
“He wanted to challenge himself at a higher level and has now come back. It gives us a bit more midfield depth.
“It’ll help take the pressure off Tom Cree.”
Connor Lever, young brother of Melbourne recruit Jake Lever, and Riddell District Football League under-18.5 best and fairest winner Shane Lindsay, have also joined the club, adding more midfield depth.
Lever is hoping to make the Calder Cannons squad.
Extra depth was one area the Thunder focused on after struggling with injuries at times last season.
Obsorne said those additions, along with the return of key players from injuries, would help boost the sde.
“Jorden Braddy only played four or five matches and has had a strong pre-season,” he said. “Tom Galea is another one … we had a really strong group up to player number 25, but struggled after that. We had to pull players from our under-19s when we had injuries.”
Osborne said they were still talking to a couple more potential recruits. He said they were looking to bring in players who will help build the side long-term.
Captain Aaron Aqulina has joined Coburg Districts, while Ash Fleming has retired.
Osborne said both would be big losses, not just because of their football, but also their leadership.
He said he expected next year’s season to be one of the closest in the history of the division 2 competition.
Despite this, the Thunder has one clear goal. “Finals are on the radar,” Osborne said.
“We played some good football against the good teams including Coburg Districts and Jacana, who were the benchmark.
“We need to have more consistency against the teams that are around us on the ladder.”
And if early signs are anything to go by, the Thunder has started its pre-season in good fashion.
“I’ve never seen the group come back to pre-season so switched on,” Osborne said. “Lucas Shaw is a barometer of the side and I’ve never seen him as fit as he is. We’re pretty happy with where we are sitting.”
Meanwhile the club’s cricketing arm is hosting a twilight Christmas Fair on Friday night.